Teens who are homeschooled benefit from healthier sleep habits than those who go to most private and public schools. The findings support an argument for starting traditional high school later in the morning.
“Adolescents need nine hours of sleep a night, and if they’re only getting seven hours, on average, by the end of the week, they are a full 10 hours of sleep behind schedule and that impacts every aspect of functioning,” says Lisa Meltzer, a sleep psychologist at National Jewish Health in Denver and lead author of the study.
Meltzer and her colleagues charted the sleep patterns of 2,612 students, including nearly 500 who are homeschooled. They found that adolescent homeschooled students slept an average of 90 minutes more a night than public and private school students, who were in class an average of 18 minutes before homeschooled children even awoke.
If teenagers need more sleep, why not just send them to bed earlier?
“It’s not that simple,” Meltzer says. “Melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep, shifts by about two hours during puberty. So, even if they wanted to get to sleep earlier, teenagers are battling biological changes in their bodies that are nearly impossible to overcome.”